- Left to Right: Pipestud Photobombing Tobacco Blenders & Pipe & Tobacco Hobby Superstars Gregory Pease, Fred Hanna & Tad Gage at the Year 2012 Kansas City Pipe Show
Before getting to the “meat and potatoes” of this blog, let me start by saying that the photo above shows three of the finest people you will ever meet. Gregory Pease, Fred Hanna and Tad Gage are highly successful businessmen, but more importantly, they are true gentlemen in every sense of the word. And talk about exceptional pipe tobacco blenders! Greg Pease’s resume’ includes about a 100 of the world’s finest blends, Fred Hanna has given the world Legends and Wilderness, and Tad Gage has given us 3 Oaks and 3 Oaks Syrian. I’d say that all three have pretty good palates. And yes, I photobombed them because otherwise those rascals would not have let me in the picture!
Okay, enough trying to flatter those guys so that they’ll let me into their little circle and on to the subject of this blog. I suppose that one’s tobacco preference just before or after meals, depends on one’s chemical makeup. And that theory makes sense to me. Otherwise, why do I enjoy smoking Dunhill’s Royal Yacht right after a big old helping of grits with my bacon and eggs every morning? Speaking of that, many of my smoking buddies who live far north and east of me either don’t like grits or even know what grits are. That blew my mind back in my Army days when I first discovered that grits is a regional dish enjoyed mostly by southerners. Another wonderful side dish down here in Texas is pea salad, another regional dish that plays a major role in this blog as does the gentleman sitting between Greg Pease and Tad Gage in the featured photo above, Fred Hanna, Ph.D. Although Hanna has lived all over the world, he currently calls Crystal Lake, Illinois, which is close to Chicago, his home. Fred is a well known collector of straight grain pipes and has about as fine a collection of straight grains as you’ll ever lay your eyes on. He is also a pipe book author and even a college professor with a Ph.D., whatever that is. He is also called upon to speak at conventions and conduct seminars all over the country. I never asked him what he talks about at those seminars, but I’m guessing it’s about straight grain pipes. Anyway, a few years ago Fred was in Dallas, Texas where he was asked to conduct some seminars at a convention there. As it turns out, he had a day off from his convention speaking duties, so, being just 90 miles south of Dallas, I drove up there and brought him back down to my home in Robinson (a rural community just south of Waco), for a quick one day visit. Despite his worldly travels, I’m not sure how worldly Fred really is. As an example, he’d never even heard of Whataburger (the state fast food joint of Texas), and was amazed at how many of them he saw as we drove back down the Interstate to my house and saw Whataburger restaurants all along the highway close to every little town we passed by. I nearly had a wreck when at one point he asked what they were!
Anyway, when we got back to Robinson, Fred was hungry. I later discovered that Fred is always hungry. And despite the fact that he’s not a heavyset fellow (well, maybe a slight paunch), that boy can eat more food in one sitting than a full grown Elephant. Although he’d never heard of Whataburger, thank goodness Fred had at least heard of Texas barbecue and said he’d like to go eat dinner at a down home Texas barbecue joint. Well, I was immediately agreeable to that. But first, Mr. Ph.D. wanted a pre-dinner smoke in one of his fancy straight grain pipes out on my back patio overlooking my pasture. His tobacco of choice was McClelland’s Legends, which some of you probably know that Fred invented over a decade ago and had McClelland’s tin it up and sell it. That blend, to this day, is still one of the quickest sellers on my website. He said that Legends was a great before dinner smoke because in cleans the palate, allowing him to better taste his food. Okay, whatever. Fred shared a bowl with me and then off we went to a place called Uncle Dan’s – about the best barbecue joint in the entire state of Texas, and that’s saying a lot!
When we got to Uncle Dan’s and walked in, Fred and I both commenced to drooling. The smell of that 12-hour pit cooked beef was indeed a slobber knocker. Fred quickly butted his way to the front of the line and I thought a few of the patrons were going to pounce on him but I explained to them that Fred Hanna was from way up north and just didn’t know that we don’t cut in line down here. That seemed to placate the crowd and they settled down and allowed Fred to casually make his selections at the buffet. When he got to the pea salad, he stared at it for a minute or two, and then, looking up in bewilderment, asked the server in a very kindly manner, “Excuse me, what the Hell is that?” No one was more puzzled than the server as I’m sure no one had ever asked him what pea salad is before. I was startled myself, but quickly told the server that Fred was from way up north and had never seen pea salad. Before the server could answer, Fred said, “I’ll have some of it!” And onto Fred’s already overloaded plate it went.
To make a long story short, Fred had filled his plate with spare ribs, brisket, sausage, four or five rolls and that big wad of pea salad. He ate every bite of all of it before I was halfway done with my meal. “Do they allow seconds around here?” Fred asked. The answer was yes and off he went. His second helping was bigger than the first and the wad of pea salad this time looked like a mini Mount Everest. He had demolished it all just as I was finishing my first and only plate (I was full to the brim). ‘Would you like some dessert?’ I asked. ‘They have great nanner puddin’ here.’ You guessed it, Mr. Ph.D., didn’t know what the heck nanner puddin’ is either. But that didn’t stop him from running back up to the buffet to get some and when he had returned with a very generous helping and reseated himself he informed me that up where he lives, the dessert is called Banana Pudding. He said he seldom sees it offered but loves it, and then he gobbled it down.
Once dinner was over I took Fred over to meet Uncle Dan himself. And Mr. Ph.D treated Uncle Dan like a rock star and even got his autograph! Uncle Dan was flattered to the hilt and said no one had ever asked him for his autograph before. We thanked him again and then waddled out of there and got into my car to get Fred back to his hotel in Dallas. On the way back it was time for an after dinner smoke. Fred said his favorite smoke after a big heavy meal was the Syrian Latakia laden Wilderness, another one of his inventions that he had McClelland’s tin up for him, and as most of you know, is also a red hot seller on my website. Fred says the Syrian Latakia in the blend tends to settle the stomach after a hearty meal. When he popped the top on that Wilderness tin I thought to myself that Fred better smoke the whole 50 grams if he wanted to settle all the food he had just put in his belly. After our smoke, Fred quickly fell asleep, no doubt dreaming of pea salad and nanner puddin’ while he was snoring away in the passenger seat of my car.